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Oklahoma Secretary of Education Ryan Walters is facing swift backlash following a social media post many are describing as racist.

Secretary Walters posted a Christmas photo of himself and his family on Thursday afternoon with the caption “no woke Santa this year :)”.  While some expressed confusion over what Ryan Walters could possibly mean by “woke Santa”, others had a pretty good idea.

“In case you missed it, Oklahoma’s newly elected State Superintendent of Education apparently thinks “woke” equals a Black/Brown Santa,” Sarah Gray, candidate for US Congress tweeted.

Oklahoma City artist and entrepreneur Jabee echoed the same takeaway. “For everyone wondering what he means: “No Black Santa this year”,” Jabee wrote.

Nationally renown journalist Joel Anderson agreed, tweeting it was “fair to consider” Walters’ pejorative use of the term “woke” as “a racial slur”.

Within 24 hours, Ryan Walters’ tweet had more than 2200 quote tweets and over 3 million views on Twitter alone.

Despite Ryan Walters’ tweet, for millions around the world, Santa has never been a white man

The racist backlash against the portrayal of Santa as a Black man has been ongoing in the public sphere for at least a decade. Shortly before Christmas in 2013, then Fox News host Megyn Kelly claimed that both Jesus and Santa were unequivocally white.

“That’s a verifiable fact,” Kelly said. “I want kids to know that.

More recently in 2020, a Little Rock man received an anonymous, hateful letter after placing a Black Santa in his yard as a Christmas decoration.

“Please remove your negro Santa Claus yard decoration,” the letter to Chris Kennedy read. “Your being jealous of my race is no excuse for your dishonesty… You are making yourself the laughing stock of the neighborhood.”

According to the Washington Post, Kennedy has since become a “professional Black Santa” for all of Little Rock.

Roughly 30% of Oklahomans do not identify as White. For many, the only Santa Claus they have known is a man with Black or brown skin.  In fact there are dozens of different cultural depictions of Santa Claus around the world, none of which, as Ryan Walters’ claims, are “woke”.

Nate Morris moved to the Tulsa area in 2012 and has committed himself to helping build a more equitable and just future for everyone who calls the city home. As a teacher, advocate, community organizer...

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1 Comment

  1. An ignorant joke that backfired terribly. It reveals what he thinks being ‘woke’ is about (or rather what many conservatives believe its about) where they think it’s about pushing ‘blackness’ onto other people rather than being about ‘whiteness’ realizing there are other people that aren’t white and culturally homogeneous.

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